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INNERMESSAN CASTLE, DG9 8QP

GETTING THERE

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

The remains of a motte and some slight earthworks associated with a former medieval town. The motte itself is on private farmland but can be seen from both the coast and the main road.

NO OFFICIAL SITE


POSTCODE

LAT/LONG

Car Parking Option

DG9 8QP

54.921436N 4.990643W

Innermessan Motte

N/A

54.927496N 4.991531W

Notes:  The motte is on private land with no routine public access and is therefore not sign-posted. It is however easily found just off the A77 and there is a car park nearby.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. Innermessan was one of only three towns in Wigtownshire (other others were the Royal burghs of Wigtown and Whithorn).


2. The name Innermessan derives from the Gaelic term "mouth of the Messan".





Scotland > Dumfries and Galloway INNERMESSAN CASTLE

Pre-dating the settlement at Stranraer, the twelfth century Innermessan Castle overlooked what was once one of the largest towns in Wigtownshire. The motte-and-bailey castle was replaced with a Tower House in the fifteenth century but soon after fell foul of local politics with the settlement going into a sharp decline.

HISTORY OF INNERMESSAN CASTLE


Innermessan preceded the later castle/settlement at Stranraer and, until the sixteenth century, was the main settlement on Loch Ryan. There is evidence of Neolithic (and earlier) activity and by the mid-second century AD it was clearly a thriving community. Later the Romans used the area, evidenced by a Roman road leading to the site, and it was possibly here that they built a fort named Rerigonium - presumably to support activities of the Classis Britannica (the British Roman Navy). Occupation continued throughout the Dark Ages with the area coming under the dominance of the Norsemen from the ninth century AD.


Despite the decline of the Norse influence by the twelfth century, Galloway remained an independent Lordship with loyalties that fluctuated between England and Scotland. Around this time Innermessan, which was one of only three towns in Wigtownshire, was the recipient of a castle - presumably a motte-and-bailey fortification. Precisely who built this is unknown - it could have been a Royal construction but it seems more likely it was constructed by a Norman immigrant. During the reign of David I of Scotland (1124-53), Normans were encouraged to come north to settle; the King saw this as a means of bringing the country firmly under his rule for they brought their castle building skills with them and constructed fortifications in their allocated territories. A likely candidate for the construction of Innermessan Castle was the Agnew family - Normans who had settled in Norfolk in the eleventh century and had certainly settled in Scotland no later than the late twelfth century.


Little is known about the castle. Today the motte stands almost 13 metres tall and was surrounded by a ditch. Nineteenth century investigations revealed a charred layer and fragments of bone suggesting the timber fortifications that once stood on the summit met a violent end. To date no trace of the bailey has yet been located although it would seem likely such a structure did exist.


Around 1426, Andrew Agnew built a Tower House on the site (no evidence of this remains today). However the reformation of 1560 saw the former church lands in and around the town fall into the hands of his political rivals, the Kennedy family. They were Lords of Stranraer and favoured the latter over Innermessan – presumably as they had fewer competitors and thus undisputed power in the newer settlement. Innermessan fell into decline and eventually was abandoned with the Tower House being quarried into oblivion for its stone. During the World Wars the empty site was used to host a ship fitting facility supporting mercantile activity against a backdrop of the German U-boat threat.

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